Ford, Baidu invest in Velodyne LiDAR for autonomous revolution

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ford20160830Velodyne LiDAR Inc., the global leader in Light, Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR technology, last week announced the completion of a combined $150-million investment from co-investors Ford Motor Company and China’s leading search engine company Baidu, Inc. The investment will allow Velodyne to rapidly expand the design and production of high-performance and cost-effective automotive LiDAR sensors, accelerating mass adoption in autonomous vehicle and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) applications and therefore accelerating the critical, transformative benefits they provide.

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Over the last decade, Velodyne has developed four generations of hybrid solid-state LiDAR systems incorporating the company’s proprietary software and algorithms that interpret rich data gathered from the environment via highly accurate laser-based sensors to create high resolution 3D digital images used for mapping, localization, object identification and collision avoidance. Velodyne’s LIDAR solutions are capable of producing 300,000 to 2.2 million data points per second with a range up to 200 meters at centimeter-level accuracy. The company’s high-performance LiDAR technology has been recognized by global automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and rideshare customers as a critical element enabling the development of fully autonomous vehicles.

“LiDAR continues to prove itself as the critical sensor for safe autonomous vehicle operation,” said David Hall, founder and chief executive officer of Velodyne LiDAR. “This investment will accelerate the cost reduction and scaling of Velodyne’s industry-leading LiDAR sensors, making them widely accessible and enabling mass deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. We are determined to help improve the goal of safety for automotive vehicles as soon as possible, as well as empower the efficiency autonomous systems offer.”

“We want the cost to be low enough to be used for all cars. We envision a safer world for the millions of automotive drivers across the globe.” said Marta Hall, Velodyne president of business development.

“From the very beginning of our autonomous vehicle program, we saw LiDAR as key enabler due to its sensing capabilities and how it complements radar and cameras,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president for product development and chief technical officer. “Ford has a long-standing relationship with Velodyne and our investment is a clear sign of our commitment to making autonomous vehicles available for consumers around the world.”

Safety on a global scale
Baidu also shares Velodyne’s vision to promote safety for autonomous vehicles on a global scale, and in particular in Baidu’s home market in China, where Baidu is already testing its fleet of autonomous vehicles. “Baidu is developing autonomous vehicles with the intention to increase passenger safety and reduce traffic congestion and pollution in China,” said Jing Wang, senior vice-president and general manager of autonomous driving unit of Baidu. “Our investment will accelerate our efforts in autonomous driving with what, in our view, are the best LiDAR sensors available today and advance Velodyne’s development of increasingly sophisticated LiDAR sensors.”

Velodyne expects an exponential increase in LiDAR sensor deployments in autonomous vehicles and ADAS applications over the next several years, driving high revenue growth. To fulfill the high demand for Velodyne’s products, the company will continue to expand its resources across engineering, operations and manufacturing. In connection with this minority investment round, the company plans to expand its board of directors to include two independent industry executives. Velodyne remains focused on strengthening its leadership in LiDAR technology development and product commercialization, working with top automotive OEM and rideshare partners to improve global transportation safety and efficiency.

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